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Beyond The Big Dig
About this project

What happens to the ribbon of land being created by the depression of the Central Artery may be the most important development decision to face Boston in a generation.


Sprouts on the Artery


IN ANY LONG journey, each step counts, but some are crucial. Late Wednesday, planning for the Rose Kennedy Greenway -- the series of parks to be built through downtown above the depressed Central Artery -- turned a corner when the final design team was named for two large parks bordering the North End on either side of Hanover Street.

Trees, gardens, play areas for children, lots of benches for seniors, an innovative stream connecting the two parks by running under Hanover Street, places for food vendors and other concessions, a sloped lawn that could be used as an amphitheater - these are all part of the creative concept advanced by the winning team, led by the prominent and internationally experienced Boston firm Wallace Floyd Design Group.

The best part is that this is only a concept. Wallace Floyd will be able to draw on the ideas of the other three finalists and on other sources during the design process, expected to take about 18 months. Indeed, Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Chairman Matthew Amorello emphasized that one of the first tasks of this team, and the teams to be selected for other parks, will be to suggest three or four different approaches for each parcel, so that the possibilities will be expanded before they are narrowed down.

Both Amorello and Mark Maloney, director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said they were pleased with the results so far. And the early response from North End neighbors has been consistently positive, according to state Senator Robert Travaglini, who was a key constituent even before he became the likely next president of the Senate.

Amorello and project architect Fred Yalouris deserve credit for moving the process forward steadily.

Still, major issues must be resolved if the extraordinary opportunity presented by this project is to be fulfilled. It won't be easy.

The views of neighbors and other citizens must be sought out and weighed heavily. At the same time, each park must work simultaneously for its abutters and also as part of the entire greenway, which can only be a success if it functions as a common ground for all of Boston and Greater Boston. The designers should be encouraged to think boldly.

Also, while the Turnpike has worked for the most part on good terms with city officials, the partnership needs to be formalized. Amorello and Maloney are working on a memorandum of understanding that could cement the relationship for the design process effectively. But Governor-elect Mitt Romney and other state and city officials need to decide how best to construct, program, operate, and maintain the greenway. Uncertainty about the client could undercut a project that now has so much promise.

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